Olive Percival and her children’s gardens

The other day in a used bookstore I came across a book called ‘The Children’s Garden Book’ by Olive Percival.

The first line of the forward is, “This is a book of suggestions for children to whom destiny has given such golden things as a plot of ground and many hours, or several years, uninterrupted by the city’s call (ever more insistent, clamorous) to indoor amusement”.

And further down, “If, for the first ten or twelve or fourteen years of life, the children of today could have personal flower gardens in which to play, to study, to read, to work, to dream, the world tomorrow would be greatly lightened of it’s ugly and menacing burden of materialism and general faithlessness”.

The next section of the book are thoughts and notes to the “to the young gardener”.

Here is an example, “Long ago, in Elizabethan England and when our colonial history was just beginning, a bouquet was not called a bouquet nor a nosegay nor a boughpot by those of highest fashion. It was called a tussy-mussy! Nobody seems to know why.”

Thanks to the internet you can read all about tussy-mussies!

The books goes on with more tidbits and advice and then she shares her garden plans for children. Things like “the Fairy Ring”, “The Kate Greenaway Garden”, and “the Moonlight Pleasance”. Each garden comes with a plant list, and illustration and planting plan and text describing details of the garden.

It is so sweet. I fell in love with Olive Percival.Besides being a gardener of some fame and a published writter and poet, she was also a book collector, an expert on Chinese and Japanese art, a traveler, and a photographer.

I have acquired one other book written by her, “Our Old Fashioned Flowers”. The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA has her diaries and photographs.

Olive Percival in her garden

“In this our lovely and bedazzling world – a perplexing world that deafens and deadens us with screaming sirens, rattling dragons, many toys, and noisy amusements – we contrive to to remain avowed lovers of flowers, even if allowed little time or place to make plants grow and willingly or unwillingly come into blossoms.”

– Olive May Graves Percival (July 1, 1869 – February 18, 1945).

You can read more about her here.

Oh, and someone’s term paper on her life here.

Accessible playgrounds in the Bay Area

I want all children to have access to playgrounds and nature. One of the main problems I see with accessible playgrounds is that the designers lose site of the whole nature part.

How do we make sure playgrounds are inclusive of children of all abilities but still include all the the things kids need to play and learn?

How can it REALLY be done? Not just following the letter of ADA compliance that result in playgrounds with no nature and too much hot plastic surfacing?

I’m reading and thinking on this. Playgrounds can be crazy expensive. Natural elements might seem to imply too much risk, uncertainty and unrealistic upkeep needs. Why? And what to do?

Is no playground better than a playground some kids can’t access? Both scenarios are disheartening.

Some interesting resources:
Bay Area Accessible Playground Finder

Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, CA

A Starling Murmuration in Downtown SF

This is amazingly beautiful! A murmuration is a flock of starlings flying around in sync. They create beautiful patterns and it is lovely to watch. I love that this beautiful natural phenomenon was captured happening in bustling downtown San Francisco.

Here’s an article in Wired about scientific explanations for these murmurations.

More Labyrinth pictures from around town

Sibley volcanic preserve
labyrinth - sibley volcanic preserve

There’s a tiny old one over by Lake Merritt. I can’t find a picture of it right now.

I know there is another labyrinth in Tilden somewhere but I haven’t made it out there.

Okay, this one is on Maui. I can dream it is about town.
labyrinth @ Nakalele Blowhole

This is the labyrinth I talk about here and here.

Boston Children’s Museum

This picture is taken out the window of the Boston Children’s Museum while waiting for the tour of the authentic Japanese house (very cool, btw).


I watched the painted hopscotch game get used by several passers-by. There was also a great paver maze at the entrance to the museum. I love using the ground plane as a design element, it’s something that kids especially notice and can’t resist reacting to.

SF airport – New Terminal 2

Anyone else been to the new(ish) SFO Terminal 2? Kudos to all who made it happen, srsly. It was like traveling on a fluffy cloud filled with unicorns, sushi and coffee.

Right after going through security the first thing that hit my eye was the ‘Yoga Room’. Say what?
Then, tons of art. filtered water stations. sushi.
You can read all about the art here.


An indoor play area for kids. SQUEEE!

Just that fact that an airport would admit that kids might be actual humans who deserve having their needs met in public was kind of shocking and, obviously, refreshing.


It was a tad spartan but such a great idea. One of the coolest features was the Butterfly Wall built and designed by Charles Sowers.


It had some fun climbing elements with an airiness that I assume was designed it to it so that parent’s wouldn’t freak out when they couldn’t see their child.


Please pardon the terrible blurry pics. I was juggling like twelve carry-ons and a coffee.

Berkeley Adventure Playground

What is an adventure playground?
I think of them as a free form playground built by kids and the grownups with them. It’s a space where the way kids play hasn’t been decided for them already, they get to see a bunch of raw materials and see the possibilities and create their own spaces.

They get wood and nails and discarded playground equipment and rope and old boats and whatever other cool stuff the staff can find or is donated. And the kids can use it however they want.

adventure playground

I feel lucky to live in an area with an Adventure Playground, you can read about it’s hostly here. It’s such a cool idea and we have been taking my son since before he could walk. There is something for everyone!

adventure playground

You have to earn tools and paint by helping clean up or gathering up old nails. Once J. could walk he loved to collect nails with a magnet fishing pole in order to trade the nails for paint.

berkeley adventure playground

Here’s J as an almost or maybe just 1 year old sitting in a boat filled with sand. Neat!
adventure playground

This is an ever evolving instrument. It’s got drums and harps and tons of other things that make great noises.

I wish I could figure out how to embed this video of my son getting bonked by a hanging float.He is at about 2 years freaking out with excitement at some junk hanging around. At about 28 seconds he gets bonked with the hanging rescue float.


The last time we went T. helped him build an airplane out of scrap wood.
adventure playground

More awesomeness. In this picture you can see not only a a cool boat in the foreground but several boats filled with plants in the middle and then the oh so cool zipline in the background. Kids line up for this over and over and it’s so fun to watch them. You must be 6 in order to ride it. I’m not sure if J. will want to!